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Before and After: Stories from New York (Vol. 1) (Mr. Beller's Neighborhood) Paperback – February 17, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Michael Cunningham, Luc Sante and Jeanette Winterson take their place alongside newcomers Ariele Fierman and Said Shirazi in this collection of new reportage from high-watt literary types and up-and-comers. In the first half, completed just before September 11, Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist) gathers pieces that chronicle everything from kissing a cabdriver in the early hours of New Year's Day or joining a Monday night pool league to a group of poems written by people staying up all night for Chekhov tickets. The feel is definitively late '90s, and the city seems full of promise, romance and cash. The second half is devoted to essays about the attacks: a meditation on the eerie prescience of Don DeLillo's Underworld book jacket (and his oeuvre), Phillip Lopate's brief history of the towers and many first-person testimonials. Nifty graphics introduce each piece by zeroing in on the city neighborhood whence the report issues. While this is at least partly an instant book, the quality of the pieces is consistently high, and they feel authentic throughout. (Feb. 15)Forecast: Beller's high literary journalistic profile he edits Open City in addition to frequent writing for glossies and continued New York interest should convert to brisk sales. Look for Beller to begin doing talk shows as the book becomes the best-available-option for those wanting book-length stylized New York reportage, and for correspondingly increased traffic at www.mrbellersneighborhood.com, where many of the pieces originally appeared.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

Brief and memorable epitomes of the urban encounter—a transporting collection. -- Kirkus Reviews

Brief and memorable epitomes of the urban encounter: a transporting collection. -- Kirkus Reviews

It's a heartbreaker of a book. -- Flakmag.com

It's hard to imagine a more appropriate or more moving collection of voices. -- San Francisco Chronicle

The essays are gorgeous, alternately sad and funny...(a) richly human collection -- Portland Mercury

The quality of these pieces is consistently high, and they feel authentic throughout. -- Publishers Weekly, 21 January 2002
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Mr. Beller's Neighborhood
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mister Beller's Neighborhood (February 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323535
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,785,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"New York Before and After" is an excellent reflection of American responses to the September 11th attacks in both the public and the private sphere.
From a public perspective, this book is one of many examples of the rampant opportunism that followed the attacks. Most of the post-9/11 opportunism was political and included legislation that provided yet more tax cuts for the wealthy, and a catastrophically expensive missile defense program that has never worked. It was also apparent, in the culture industry, as evidenced by the eruption of countless obnoxious benefits, and the verbiage of irrelevant news personalities who had suddenly come to believe that their bland polemics meant something.
From a private perspective, this book beautifully exemplifies the rapid retreat that most of us made from any sustained analysis of what made 9/11 possible. For about 48 hours after the attacks, we Americans appeared to have woken up from the slumber of mass consumption and entitlement, and actually begun to take a good hard look at how the rest of the world viewed us and how are government actually works. But old habits die hard, and in the case of 9/11 they arose from the grave in a matter of days.
"New York Before and After" is a marvelous confluence of both these phenomena. Firstly, some writers made up for in ambition what they lacked in talent and used 9/11 to pump stories from their Web site into publication. A few of these stories are good and most of them are not. Without the collapse of the World Trade Center, it is doubtful they would have been published. Secondly, these writers both performed and perpetuated the collective national sin of focusing on the drama while avoiding any meaningful examination of events.
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Format: Paperback
I got this book as a gift and wasn't expecting much from it-I actually thought the whole idea was a bit distasteful. The notion of anyone profiting from Sept. 11th, whether by money or publicity, was abhorrent to me.

I have to admit, though, that I couldn't put the thing down! There are some gems in this collection, many from writers I've never heard of but will certainly be looking out for in the future. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this book turns out to be a collector's item in 20 years when some of the younger writers have made some headway onto the literary map (there are already some big names in here like Jeanette Winterson and Phillip Lopate).

If you don't have the time or the patience to read the whole book (there are about 60 stories in all), I'd suggest at least reading these (I'm referring to my dog-eared personal favorites):

In the Before section, stories by:
-Leelila Strogov
-Jim Merlis
-Maura Kelly
-Snooder Greenberg
-Luc Sante
-Michael Cunningham
-Thomas Beller
-Josh Kramer
-Sabin Streeter
-Josh Gilbert

In the After section, stories by:
-Debra Fontaine
-Charles Waters
-Bryan Charles
-Sam Lipsyte
-Elizabeth Grove
-Amy Brill
-Vince Passaro
-Dorothy Spears
-Joseph Lieber

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in important, moving, funny, and of course also very sad NY stories, as well as a cross-section of some very fine writing.
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Format: Paperback
I may not be the most objective reader in the world as I have lived in New York for the last 8 years and saw the World Trade Centers on fire myself as I was being evacuated out of downtown Manhattan. But I found this book to be incredibly moving.
I was mainly interested in reading the 9/11/01 accounts and wasn't even sure if I would be interested in the "Before" section. But I was pleasantly surprised. The stories are a collection of everything from the humorous to the bittersweet to the ugly. The wide variety of characters span from every walk of New York life. Some people I felt could have been written by my best friends in New York. Some stories I could relate to through my own experiences.
The "After" section was grippingly real and heartbreaking. There is one story of a man who survived escaping from the Twin Towers, which is so detailed that I felt as if I was reliving the day as I read it, tears coming to my eyes. This section is also varied, getting different perspectives on what happened and how to deal with the aftermath. I work four blocks away from Ground Zero. There is rarely a day when 9/11 does not come into my thoughts. It is a comfort to read these stories and know that New Yorkers are all suffering in their own ways.
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By A Customer on September 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this excellent collection of New York stories, Bryan Charles's is the standout by far. He describes how a mundane morning at work turned into a nightmare. If you want to know what it was like to be there, this is the story to read. The account of his escape from the Towers will make your heart pound. As time passes and this event takes on even greater historical importance, accademics and general readers alike will look to this story as the primary account of what happened in New York on 9/11.
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